The Possibility of Recycling in Hong Kong

Waste problems have always pestered Hong Kong in many ways. In 2018, the Environment Protection Department announced their expenditures to the public. Of the total expenditure of 5.114 billion HKD, 41.9% is spent for the operation of waste facilities, roughly amounting 2.143 billion HKD spent throughout the year. This piece of data is not surprising when taking into account the 11,428 tonnes of municipal solid waste processed by landfills daily.

Having had to deal with the gradually saturating landfills has not only caused billions of dollars spent solely for maintenance purposes, but serious pollution issues at the same time. When processing waste, landfills emit large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide. Both being greenhouse gases, they contribute to worsening global warming, bringing many more complications to the beautiful world we live in. Moreover, the incineration process, which efficiently reduces the weight of trash by 90%, arouses grave side effects. The many pollutants and particulates generated by incineration (e.g. dioxins, furans, heavy metals such as mercury and lead) causes human health issues like chronic bronchitis, problems with the central nervous system and even cancer.

Recycling, being one of the infamous 4Rs, is an uprising global trend in waste reduction. Pioneers in the world in the field include countries like Germany and Austria, with recycle rates of 56.1% and 53.8% respectively. Hong Kong’s recycling rate in 2018, however, is at a low value of 30%. As seen in the data, Hong Kong is far from top tier globally in terms of recycling. Recycling provides a cleaner option to processing waste when compared with incineration. Recycling brings many benefits. Not only does it avoid the pollution issues caused by incineration, recycling creates recycled products that can be reused, converting waste to useful products.

One may then ask if recycling brings so many benefits, what is stopping us from replacing incineration with recycling?